“Anything boys can do, girls can do better” is becoming the unofficial motto for two new members of the Warrior’s wrestling team, Veenah Francis and Sam Davila. The two are the first and only female wrestlers in Steinbrenner’s history. But for a sport that is already challenging enough for the males, it’s not always easy being what many consider the ‘wrong’ gender.
“It’s hard. The training is difficult, and you’re always going to get crap for doing what you want to do, when no one else does it,” said Francis.
And Francis’ entrance to the sport was anything but usual. After having spent some of her childhood practicing the martial art Tae Kwon Do, she was no stranger to “tough guy”, masculine sports. But it was only after she jokingly listed wrestling as one of her last ranked choices during course selection that she actually found herself in the class, where teacher and head coach of the team, Paul Noble, managed to get her to actually give the sport a try.
Sam Davila, the other half of the girl’s wrestling team, had a more traditional introduction to the sport through someone who wrestled in her family–her mom, who had at one point been the 4th best wrestler at the Illinois state level. Davila also appreciates professional wrestling (the kind with chair slamming and pile-driving) just as much as the kind that takes place in high schools—she’s even trained with WWE legend Jon Cena at his Tampa home.
In the absence of an all-girl’s league or separate practices, female wrestlers often spend most of their time drilling, training, and competing with men. But it is more common than you would think to find a team with one or two girls on their roster, and when they happen to meet other girls, friendships are often formed.
The bonds are formed in part because of all the shared inconveniences that the girls have to go through in order to wrestle. Not only do they have to wear under-armors (under their singlets) and hair nets during their matches, but also have to put up with all the biological awkwardness and judgments that often comes from wrestling with boys. There’s also the vast difference in strength that many girls encounter during their matches:
“The guys are just so much stronger, and it’s such a big thing. In my first match, he would literally pick me up and just throw me on the ground, and then just held me down,” said Veenah Francis.
But shortly after getting their first round of girls, Warrior’s wrestling may already be attracting more. Francis and Davila have already spoken with numerous other girl athletes in flag football, volleyball, and other sports about joining the team next year, and may already have a few of them hooked. Not only that, but there are also talks of moving towards having an all-girl’s league or event.
Whatever the case, the number of female wrestlers at Steinbrenner has increased from zero to two, and that number could still be on the rise. Keep your eyes peeled for more girls representing the Warriors on the mats come next year.
Brett Behers / Staff Writer